A new spinout from Imperial College London aims to give everyone a greater say in their medical provision. Digital Care Planning is adapting different technologies to help people take a more active role in planning and deciding what medical care they receive.
The company has launched with Amber Care Plans, a simple to use Advance Care Planning website where patients can record their care preferences and share them with their doctors. The company also has plans to release an artificially intelligent chatbot that will help more people create personalised care plans. This new tool will be particularly useful for those with life-limiting conditions or those approaching the end of life.
Advance Care Plans (ACP) are sets of instructions decided upon by patients and their doctors indicating their preferences for treatment under certain circumstances. Preparing an ACP is not compulsory, but their application has been correlated with positive outcomes. Studies suggest having an ACP in place means patients spend less time in hospital and have a better chance of being in their preferred place of care at the end of life. Patients with plans and their family members have also reported higher levels of satisfaction with the care they received. ACPs are considered particularly important for those in palliative care, as the patient is able to leave a record of their preferences in cases where they are no longer able to speak.
Digital Care Planning was started by the Helix Centre, an innovation lab co-run by Imperial and the Royal College of Art which applies human-centred design to challenges in healthcare. The company spun out with support from Imperial Innovations, Imperial’s technology transfer office.
Prof the Lord Ara Darzi, chairman of the Helix Centre, said: “Having an advance care plan is a major step in living well with infirmity and staying out of hospital. However, when it comes to the end of life, the latest figures from NHS England show that almost half of us die in a hospital. Few of us want to be there and many have no clinical need to be there. To get joined up end of life care in your home, you should have a plan. Our aim is to facilitate patients’ access to the end-of-life care they truly want”
By guiding patients though the creation of an Advance Care Plan, Amber Care Plans is expected to lead to a reduction in the number of unwanted and unnecessary hospitalisations, while also aligning patients’ wishes with the care they receive.
Chris McCormack, Managing Director of Digital Care Planning, said: “We want to make the Advance Care Planning process simple for everyone. For some patients, who know want they want, a website that makes the process simple is ideal. We have that at www.amberplans.com and users have been responding well to it. Others would benefit more from a discussion with their doctors, but GPs have little time available.
“That is why we are developing an intelligent chatbot that encourages people to explore end of life issues and to introduce them to Advance Care Plans. At the moment our chatbot walks you through the creation of your plan. As more people use it, the system will learn and respond better to users. Eventually, it will be able to take an individual’s situation into account and help them create a truly personalised care plan.”
Amber Care Plans is not a complete substitute to discussing plans with a physician. Nevertheless, it could be used by patients to better understand the care options available, so time spent with doctors can be better utilised.
“It’s better that you spend time at home understanding the process with the help of Amber Care Plans, thinking, planning, and talking to family and friends. Then, you can spend that precious time with your GP discussing your care plan and how to implement it. That way, patients will have made an informed decision about their care and doctors will be reassured that their patient understands their options and decisions,” said McCormack.
As Amber Care Plans is a digital service, patients can update their plan easily whenever their circumstances change, and healthcare professionals can be sent updates. By putting care planning directly in the hands of patients, the platform increases an individual’s stake and engagement in the process.
The service, which covers England and Wales, received funding from SBRI Healthcare to develop and validate its platform. The chatbot is currently undergoing testing and is expected to be released in late May. Digital Care Planning is also exploring how voice technology can be used to support end of life planning conversations.
|For more information:|
|Digital Care Planning ltd|
|Chris McCormack||+44(0) 7446 981 932
+44 (0)20 3053 8850
Notes to Editors
About the Helix Centre
The Helix Centre is a joint collaboration between Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. Its team of designers, clinicians, engineers and developers is based at St Mary's Hospital in London. The Centre’s goal is simple: to address real healthcare problems by translating research into evidence-based solutions.